As you may have heard, Detroit is not doing so well. The city has $15 billion dollars in long term financial liability and an ever shrinking revenue stream. Its population continues to decline while its 139 square miles does not. Detroit cannot maintain its infrastructure, transport its people or meet its pension obligations. Hiroshima was flattened in 1945 and its doing better than the Motor City. If only Detroit could raise the money it needs to pay its bills.
Hey, whoa! — check it out. They’ve got an entire art museum full of expensive paintings just hanging on walls and stuff:
Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr is considering whether the multibillion-dollar collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts should be considered city assets that potentially could be sold to cover about $15 billion in debt.
So how much is its art worth?
Museums are not required by federal accounting rules to list their collections as assets. However, at the request of the Free Press, art dealers in New York and metro Detroit reviewed a list of 38 of the greatest masterpieces owned by the museum and estimated a market value of at least $2.5 billion with pieces such as Bruegel’s “The Wedding Dance,” van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait” and Matisse’s “The Window” all carrying estimates of between $100 million and $150 million each.
Believe it or not, Michigan residents aren’t thrilled with the idea. Museum quality art is widely regarded as a legacy for future generations. Should today’s sperm be denied tomorrow’s pleasures because the current generation can’t pay its bills?
Randy Richardville, a Michigan state senator and a (WTF?) Republican, doesn’t think so. He is introducing legislature that will protect Detroit’s art from sale. Let’s hope the bill includes funding for climate control and museum lighting.